Hi everyone! I just ran my first session of Dungeon World last night and wanted to share my thoughts and questions. Please bear with me while I barf forth enthusiasm!
I've been GMing for a while, mainly having run campaigns of Corporation and D&D 4th Ed (with one-offs of 3.5 and Swords & Wizardry) and the Apocalypse/Dungeon World game mechanics were a huge pleasure to run. I ran DW for my wife Candace and our friends Francisco and Becca.
I didn't follow Apocalypse World's techniques for fronts and threats very much but I did create a basic setting, adventure hooks, and spare names and just set the players loose with an initial hook. It worked pretty well; things were a bit slow at first but the players seemed to pick it up quickly, especially once combat and action began.
The characters are Takari the female human paladin, Keshra the female dwarf, and Fizzlepocket the scoundrely halfling rogue. My players cited the "bonds" section of the character sheets as being helpful in quickly fleshing out their group and characters and as a lot of fun in general. I agreed!
For the setting, the players are in a dwarven camp called Korosh that's high in the mountains. The dwarves there discovered a mine rich in iron and gold and Korosh is a crude camp but the mining operation and trade is causing it to grow quickly. Some humans came to the camp to trade and try to find work (or to find easy pickings, in Fizzlepocket's case). The dwarven leader, Rhogi, is concerned only with the well-being and advancement of Korosh and its dwarves. Rhogi is only reluctantly accepting the help of the PCs since his dwarves are all busy running the mine at maximum efficiency and so needs their help. He asked the PCs to bring his carpenter, another dwarf named Tybgin, to the ruined watchtower at the mountain's peak to evaluate its condition so that the dwarves can repair it and keep a watch of the surrounding area.
Note: I have all my prep notes in a Google doc. Let me know if anyone would like the link to all this stuff if you're interesting in seeing or using it.
The players accepted the quest. The tower was inhabited by goblin squatters, who nearly killed Tybgin. This created a lot of drama as the players were smashing goblins off of him and trying to heal and protect him. The tower was ultimately secured and the PCs returned to Korosh for carousing and rewards.
Thoughts on the game system
Rather than get too involved with retelling the story, I would like to discuss the system. I was greatly surprised by how simple everything was on my end! I didn't have to consult treasure tables, apply roll modifiers, calculate distance or falling damage, or check complex monster stat blocks and, interestingly, nothing felt like it was missing whatsoever compared to something more crunchy like D&D. We were all able to focus on exciting moves and action and all four of us thought it was great. The players even told me how awesome they thought the game was partway though. It made me very happy to hear!
I would have never considering running combat without initiative but the fight my players engaged in flowed so smoothly and organically without initiative that it felt freeing and delightful. Every move in combat became alive with description, drama, and consequences. For example:
-A goblin dropped down, knife first, onto Tybgin's back, causing the players to rush to his aid
-A goblin threw a small ceramic pot of sneezing powder in Keshra's face, forcing her to Defy Danger and take damage (custom monster move I thought up)
-Takari used one of her expendable adventuring supplies inventory items as lamp oil, improvising an attack where she spat the oil over a torch to burn some goblins
-Fizzlepocket failed a roll and his rapier struck the stone wall of the tower instead of the goblin, casuing the rapier to snap and break
These are only a sampling. The Dungeon World setup freed us all and allowed combat to become so alive compared to a series of back and forth rolls with tired descriptions tacked on.
In addition to the combat, I enjoyed the rolls for undertaking perilous journeys, carousing, and the like. I love the way the principles and moves encourage you to do dramatic and exciting things to make the players' lives interesting.
Long story short: I freakin' love Dungeon World and it's really hitting the spot! Thank you so much for your work, Sage.
GMing in this style was awesome. I need to keep beating those principles and moves into my head.
I have a couple of Dungeon World-specific questions that popped up:
How exactly to handle the 7-9 range of a roll? The rules say that the move mostly succeeds "but with complications". Do you pretty much select the opposite of one of the listed results as your move, such as causing the damage or not putting the players where they want to be? Do you generally select a GM move? I was able to handle the flow of gameplay and the application of GM moves pretty well but I feel like I could have a bit more of an improved flow to the game.
When aiding, does the player just roll+bonds or do they do the same roll as the main player + bonds? For example, Keshra prepared a feast for the dwarves in order to Carouse. Takari decided she knew some raunchy songs, which she danced on tables to perform while exposing cleavage (very paladin-like, I know!). Would Takari just roll + bonds or would she make a Carouse roll of roll + stat + bonds?
Do you ever call for rolls? Doing so doesn't sound like it meshes with the Apocalypse World style, but when the players announced their intention to travel to the outpost keep in the dark through the howling wind through hazardous terrain, I did everything I could short of telling them "roll for perilous journey". This only came up a couple of times but do you have any tips for handling these situations?
Also, how do you guys prep for DW? Do you follow the same method as AW? I used an idea of setting up an area with a few "dungeon" type spots (short descriptions, really), adventuring hooks, and prominent NPCs. Can you please describe the method you use to ensure that you have a thrilling world that engages the players and gets them moving to get things done and gets them to dangerous places and dramatic situations?
Guidelines for narrative? Obviously a failed roll is a delicious opportunity for trouble, but do you often make bad things happen on those 7-9 rolls or use moves like "announce future trouble" after rolls of 10+? Fizzlepocket's dice seem to only have 5s and 6s on them. I want my game to be loaded with conflict and interesting choices at every opportunity. I felt like I was defaulting to my usual GMing technique and could do a better job of using Moves, which I apparently should always be doing.
Thanks for reading!